DBL Center Discusses PTO and PFML with Arch Insurance’s Sonja Spruiel

How does PTO work in states with disability and family leave benefits?

As a growing number of states roll out statutory Paid Family and Medical Leave programs and short-term disability insurance benefits, employers, HR managers, benefits advisors, and insurance brokers, alike, are trying to understand how PTO and PFML interact in terms of claims.

In some states, employers can require workers to use their PTO first, but some states do not allow that.  Understanding all the rules can be complicated, especially for insurance brokers selling these new PFML benefits across multiple states.

Fortunately, said Sonja Spruiel, who serves as the Regional Business Development Manager, Accident and Health, for Arch Insurance, “The broker doesn’t have to be the expert.”

She added, “I position myself as the expert because I read into the laws and create spreadsheets for my company. If brokers bring an expert to the table who is knowledgeable about the products and can really be consultative to the client, it can help them navigate the transition into these mandated paid leave programs.”

That’s just one of the ways insurance brokers can benefit from using an insurance wholesaler with close relationships with top carriers. Spruiel sat down with The DBL Center marketing team to unravel the different paid family and medical leave benefits in different states and how they affect PTO for employees in those states.

Understanding PTO and PFML / State Disability Laws

“Some states allow employers to require the employee to use PTO first, and some states do not allow it,” Spruiel said as the starting point to a deeper, state-by-state dive.

In places like New Jersey, it’s desirable to use PTO to fill in gaps, she explained.

The state has a one-week waiting period for disability benefits paid through the New Jersey State Insurance Fund, so employees may be able fill in their missing income with PTO. “A lot of employees elect to receive PTO so they can receive pay for those seven days,” Spruiel said.

Additionally, New Jersey employees may use PTO in increments to make their weekly earnings whole. “In New Jersey, if an employee is earning 85% of their wages up to a cap, they can use PTO to get paid up to 100% of their pre-disability earnings,” Spruiel said.

Connecticut employers are allowed to require their employees to use PTO – or allow them to opt to use PTO concurrently with Connecticut Paid Leave – as long as the total compensation doesn’t exceed the employee’s full regular pay. The Connecticut law also permits employers to mandate that workers use their accrued vacation time, but must allow the worker to retain at least two weeks of PTO or vacation time, according to CTPaidLeave.org.

In Massachusetts, an employee can opt to use PTO to receive income during the seven-day waiting period for PFML, but they aren’t required to. They can also opt to use PTO instead of PFML at any time during leave if the benefit is higher.

However, employees in Massachusetts, cannot use PTO concurrently with PFML on the same day to make their salary whole. They can, however, collect PTO and PFML benefits within the same week, but not on the same day, according to Mass.gov.

As you can see, rules vary across states and, in some states, employees may not have a need to use their PTO.

“States like Oregon and Colorado, which do not have a waiting period and benefits start on day one, cannot require an employee to use PTO. If an employee elected to take PTO, it would be an offset to the benefit,” Sprueil said.

The Future of Paid Family Medical Leave

As we spoke, the topic came up regarding a federal paid family and medical leave program and how this may (or may not) affect the disparate state programs. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides employees in companies larger than 50 lives with unpaid, job-protected leave. But, so far, there has been no federal paid leave program.

If legislation passes, Spruiel said it would be a “minimal benefit,” and that states would still have the option to meet – or exceed – the requirements through their own programs. “States with programs in place would not be subject to the federal plan.”

This would leave the future of privatized FMLA and PFL benefits secure as a revenue stream for insurance brokers and as a recruiting and retention tool for employers, as well as for states that are competing for tax revenue from homeowners and employees.

FMLA Benefits as a Recruiting and Retention Tool

With skilled office workers able to work from virtually anywhere, many states are trying to prevent “brain drain,” or the phenomenon of skilled workers relocating from more expensive regions. Robust, state-mandated benefits can help attract higher income workers and, therefore, tax revenue, to specific states with competitive FMLA laws in place.

“Many of the bigger states already have plans,” Spruiel said. “A smaller state may not see a desire for the expense of administration of a program, so they may let the federal program reside in their state. But there are a lot of other states to compete with in this world of remote working, so there’s a big edge for states who choose to be competitive on this.”

We can expect to see more state plans introduced, even if federal paid leave legislation manages to pass through Congress within the next few years.

With that in mind, Spruiel emphasized that it is usually a worker’s “payroll state,” or the state where they complete the majority of their work and pay taxes, that determines their statutory benefit eligibility and the state where they would file a paid leave claim. “Remote work is changing the landscape of everything,” Spruiel said.

It’s more important than ever for statutory insurance brokers to position themselves as a resource to employers and benefits supervisors. In many cases, that means fostering relationships with carriers through The DBL Center. As a concierge for brokers, we can act as your back-office staff and help guide your clients through this ever-evolving landscape of employee benefits.

 


How to Fill your New York Disability Insurance Pipeline for the New Year

Smart New York disability insurance brokers have been thinking ahead to 2022 since the third quarter wrapped up. However, that’s not always easy to do as so much has changed in the past year. If you’ve been focused on the day-to-day, treading water and focused on maintaining your book of business without growing, that’s completely understandable.

But it could be time, as the new year approaches, to take a step back and take inventory of how you can grow in 2022.

As a successful New York disability insurance broker, you understand that keeping your pipeline full of leads and using consultative selling to earn the trust of clients and prospects, are keys to success. But how can you generate leads to fill your pipeline in this ever-changing, fast-paced world?

First, let The DBL Center be your back-office staff for managing the details. Follow our expert marketing tips for New York disability insurance, ancillary benefits like dental, vision, and group life/AD&D, and voluntary worksite benefits like accident insurance.

Take Inventory and Understand Your Market

As we prepare to enter the new year, take an internal inventory of your sales and marketing strategies. What has worked in the past?

  • What stopped working for your brokerage in 2020 and 2021?
  • What new strategies and tactics that you’ve noticed could be deployed by your team?
  • How can you use technology to continue building relationships with your target market?

Most importantly, are you clear on the make-up of your target market? Only when you understand your audience can you adopt the appropriate strategies to fill your pipeline with leads.

Choose One or Two Marketing Strategies and Focus on Them

The digital era brings marketing strategies and tactics that New York disability insurance brokers haven’t previously embraced. If you’ve relied on sales calls, face-to-face meetings, and in-person networking to grow your book of business, it’s time to start looking at one-to-many (rather than one-to-one) tactics that can save you time and yield faster results.

Possibilities for digital marketing include:

  • Inbound marketing through blog posts and social media content
  • Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Advertising through Google AdWords or paid social
  • Email marketing campaigns for lead generation
  • Webinars for one-to-many marketing

This can all seem overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done much digital marketing.

Choose one or two tactics that fit your company’s skillset, personality, brand and budget. Consider outsourcing some of these services if you don’t have the in-house staff to maintain momentum with content creation or don’t have the knowledge to spearhead a digital ad campaign on your own.

An outsourced digital marketing agency can deliver warm leads straight to your sales team, leaving your in-house brokers to seal the deal through consultative selling, white-glove service, and a deep understanding of the products.

Get Back to Basics with Follow-ups

It can take three to six months for a digital campaign to gain momentum, but you’ll want to be prepared when it does. Have a system to identify and follow-up on qualified leads.

When you do, consider your entire product line – not just New York disability insurance. The DBL Center works with preferred carriers to provide our clients with affordable options to upsell businesses on:

  • Long-term disability coverage
  • Group Life / AD&D
  • Vision
  • Dental
  • Accident Insurance
  • Critical Illness Coverage

You can save your clients money by bundling benefits, which can help them recruit and retain talent in today’s tight labor market. By making recommendations in a consultative capacity, you’ll become a valuable resource, working hand-in-hand with business owners and HR departments to help solve one of their biggest problems today: Keeping well-qualified employees happy.

Leverage Technology to Track Renewals and Cancellations

Of course, it costs less money to retain customers (and upsell additional employee benefits!) than it does to generate new leads and bring in new business. Both are equally important for business growth.

The DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker gives you the tools you need to track renewals and cancellations, so you can stay in touch with your clients when they need you most.

Schedule your free demo of the Broker Dashboard today.


Voluntary Benefits at Work: The Antidote to “The Great Resignation”

In part one of our interview with Larry Estridge, The DBL Center’s new Regional VP of Group Voluntary Worksite Benefits, we talked about Estridge’s plans to work with DBL Center brokers to help them fill gaps in coverage and build loyalty with their clients through expanded voluntary employee benefits.

In part 2, we dig deep into why voluntary benefits at work are so crucial today as we face “The Great Resignation.” Record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs, according to recent reports, and there are more positions available than qualified employees willing to fill them. Additionally, nearly 2/3 of U.S. workers are currently looking for a new job.

Surprisingly, one study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Motivosity suggested that “job satisfaction” is not the key reason people quit their jobs. Findings from other surveys found that the keys to retaining employees come down to a number of factors, including the employee’s culture fit within the company, their relationships with co-workers, and the sacrifices they’d have to make if they quit – such as losing voluntary benefits at work.

Estridge pointed out, “A person is less likely to go down the street to a company’s competitor for another couple of bucks if they know they have a strong benefit package where they are.”

For insurance brokers, The Great Resignation represents an opportunity to cross-sell voluntary employee benefits with statutory lines of coverage and help their customers recruit and retain top talent in tumultuous times.

In our last chat, we touched upon the broad variety of voluntary worksite benefits. Can you explain each product line in a bit more detail?

Larry Estridge: Let’s start with disability insurance – it replaces a portion of income, usually up to 60%, for on- and off-the-job accident and sickness.

Accident insurance pays a scheduled benefit for on-and-off the job accidents, such as burns, broken bones, ambulance rides, and emergency room coverage. It can also help with out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles and co-pays.

Critical illness insurances helps employees pay out-of-pocket costs at the time of diagnosis, for things like cancer, liver disease, heart disease, stroke. It’s paid in a lump sum benefit directly to the employee. It can be used for medical expenses, rent, mortgage, groceries, anything they deem important at the time. So, it gives an employee ease and flexibility.

Life insurance is another one of the more common voluntary benefits at work. It’s often used for funeral costs, final expenses, leaving behind money as part of their legacy.

Dental and vision coverage. Those two are self-explanatory and those are the two that are usually associated with voluntary benefits at work.

Why are these voluntary employee benefits so important from a recruiting and retention standpoint, especially during the labor shortage?

A person usually takes a job or a position with a company for the right career path, or they’re looking for a competitive or good salary. But what really keeps a person at a company, aside from the paycheck, is a strong benefits package. Voluntary benefits at work are a main part of the reason companies are able to recruit and retain employees. People are really looking ahead – especially in today’s times.

Do most companies typically go for employee-funded, employer-funded or shared costs?

Larry Estridge: I would say that varies. Most companies offer some group life / AD&D along with dental and vision paid for by the employer. They may provide some LTD or STD, but employees can then choose from different offerings such as critical illness, accident insurance and the like, or they can “buy up” on other offerings. These products can be extended to family members. Usually the cost is absorbed by the employee when they do that.

Many states are introducing Paid Leave, Paid Family Leave, and expanded disability benefits packages. With this coverage available through the state, why is it more important than ever for employers to provide a range of voluntary benefits at work?

Larry Estridge: Going back to these crazy times we live in, employees are becoming more aware of what their benefits are, and what they can and can’t do. Voluntary employee benefits basically allow them to have a choice, to have some control over what their benefit package will look like. Employees can choose what’s most important to them and their families.

Again, the most robust offerings are, the better the pool of employees the owner can recruit into the business. Trying to bring someone on board – or keep them from moving elsewhere – with a strong benefit package is exactly what businesses need to be doing to combat today’s high quit rates.

 

 

 


Record Numbers of Small Businesses Launched in 2020

Here’s how your insurance brokerage can benefit

P&C insurance brokers specializing in statutory and employee benefits may have been dismayed by the number of companies – especially in the hospitality sector – that went out of business in 2020. Insurance cancellations may have caused a loss in revenue at a time when it was harder to generate new business when you couldn’t meet with clients face to face during the pandemic.

Our proprietary Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker allows us to track and monitor details like this to help brokers retain clients and grow their book of business.

Also see: Selling NY State Disability Insurance: Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19

However, new research shows that new business opportunities may not be as scarce as the insurance community had perceived. In fact, research from the University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger showed that more new businesses opened in 2020 than they have at other times, Axios reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported that, during the pandemic, for every five stores that closed permanently in one Chicago neighborhood, 10 opened. While many of the new small businesses are e-commerce websites or “non-store retailers,” other sectors showing growth are restaurants, laundromats, and trucking companies, Axios reported.

How Does This Affect Statutory Insurance Brokers?

Currently, five U.S. states plus Puerto Rico mandate statutory disability benefits for employees. Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York offer options to privatize these employee benefits.

Read more: Opportunities Grow for Statutory Insurance Brokers

New business owners may not be aware that every full-time and many part-time employees require short-term disability coverage in accordance with the legislation for their state – even if the employee works out-of-state.

For instance, if a Wisconsin resident works remotely as a W-2 employee (not in independent contractor) for an e-commerce site based in New Jersey, the employer would be responsible for providing statutory disability and Family Leave Insurance (FLI) benefits to that worker.

Although many digital companies opt to work with independent contractors to simplify payroll and avoid these benefits, along with gaining flexibility and scalability in their workforce, some will hire full-time employees in key roles. Chief marketing officers, content managers, web developers, and accountants often hold full-time roles in e-commerce companies.

Additionally, new brick-and-mortar business owners will need to be informed about their state’s laws for statutory disability and family leave benefits. They will need to work with insurance brokers they can trust to educate them on the laws and offer options to get white-glove, specialized service. Small business owners may not recognize the importance of ancillary benefits for recruiting and retention. In today’s tight labor market, employee benefits such as Group Life / AD&D, vision, dental, and long-term disability can set new businesses apart.

For brokers, it’s a matter of connecting with new business owners and becoming their trusted advisor when it comes to employee benefits.

Where to Find New Businesses

Statutory insurance is unique – and can be uniquely profitable – because you are selling business owners a benefit they need. However, they may not know where to find it or how to get the lowest rates. They may not know they can bundle ancillary benefits with disability insurance for lower rates. If they have already started writing their benefits through their state, they might be unhappy with the service but unaware that they have alternatives.

The first step toward growing your book of business is to find small business owners who need your help. Local networking groups remain a key source of leads, especially now that people are attending in-person business meetings and networking events again.

Here are a few other places to uncover leads:

  • Check with your local Chamber of Commerce, which may provide business lists to their members.
  • Connect with the Corporations Division of the Secretary of State for their online directory of registered corporations
  • Search on Google for new businesses in specific industries

You can also use inbound marketing to attract new leads to you, by posting content on LinkedIn to connect with new business owners in your state.

Look Ahead, Reach Out, Deliver the Service Business Owners Expect

As we recover collectively from the effects of the past year and a half, it’s time to start looking ahead. The DBL Center makes it easy for you to deliver white-glove, personalized service and the lowest rates to your clients.

Reach out to find out how we can help you grow your book of business right now.

 

 


Your Wholesale Insurance Broker Helps You Track Renewals, Avoid Cancellations

Increase revenue with our exclusive Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker

As many companies went out of business in 2020 and others saw substantial revenue reductions, insurance brokers have struggled to collect payments for New York and New Jersey statutory disability insurance policies. The DBL Center is the first and only wholesale insurance broker to deliver a list of your pending cancellations and renewals directly to your inbox via our industry-first Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker app.

Every year, a handful or more of companies will push the limits of their disability insurance renewals. They know we can always backdate the policy if they pay even after cancellation. But brokers’ commissions get delayed and it can wreak havoc on cash flow.

This year could have been even worse when it comes to lost commissions and a shrinking book of business due to the pandemic. But the Broker Dashboard: Net Revenue Tracker app helps DBL Center brokers stay on top of pending cancellations for non-pay, so they can get paid faster and keep the money coming in. After all, we all know that nickels, dimes, and quarters make dollars. Every disability insurance policy your customers pay on time, before multiple cancellation notices, represents money in your pocket.

“I think the annual billing cycle that just closed has been as successful as it could have been given all the other [economic] circumstances,” said Valmaria Strobel, Vice President – DBL Underwriting for Standard Security Life Ins. Co. of NY.

She added that The DBL Center’s reminders to Standard Security brokers were instrumental in avoiding a host of non-pay cancellations. “We billed these policies at the end of 2020, and although some were slow to pay, more have paid than would have without those reminders he was sending.”

Cutting Edge Technology, White Glove Service

Standard Security started in the business 30 years ago with The DBL Center, led by founder David Cohen, as one of the carrier’s top wholesale insurance brokers. “If you ask me what [DBL Center President and CEO] Mike Cohen has brought to the table, it’s the technology, for sure,” Strobel said.

Every month, The DBL Center delivers a list of all policyholders, including in-force policies, renewals, pending cancellations, and cancellations to brokers’ inboxes, making it easy for brokers to track down pending cancellations to keep revenue streams flowing. “It’s hand-packaged and tied in a bow, essentially,” Strobel said.

Strobel explained that the Broker Dashboard reminders go out to brokers on the heels of Standard Security reminders. “It’s been effective in getting policy holders to pay and avoiding some unnecessary cancellations,” she says.

Insurance Agents Rely on The DBL Center as their Wholesale Insurance Broker and “Bill Collector”

It’s not just carriers who love the way the Broker Dashboard keeps cash flow moving and helps prevent cancellations for non-pay.

Over the past years since The DBL Center introduced this technology, brokers have expressed gratitude for the monthly reports and easy, remote access to their entire book of business.

Calling the list of renewals and pending cancellations “very helpful,” Anthony Villani, managing director for Avanti Associates, a Pelham, NY, disability insurance broker, said. “We do a lot hand-holding with insureds on these renewal audits and are presently working on these accounts, I am pretty sure we will be saving most of them and this list facilitates our process.”

Similarly, Tom Murray, commercial lines account executive for JSM Brokerage Inc. in East Hills, NY said, “I appreciate you reaching out and letting me know about all these.” Having a list of pending cancellations and non-renewals allows brokers to focus on bill collection in a timely manner, while the Broker Dashboard tracks it all for them.

The DBL Center is the only wholesale insurance broker that provides the technology and service to help you stay on top of cancellations and improve cash flow.

Not using the Broker Dashboard yet? Watch our video and then schedule your free demo here! 


Is Virtual Selling Enough for Insurance Brokers?

We all know 2020 presented major challenges for insurance brokers. I discussed some of these challenges with Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, and Michael Pelligrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative in the video, “Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19.”

So much has changed this year – but adapting is an important part of success.

Heading into Thanksgiving we would look forward to The DBL Center’s Annual Holiday Party the first week in December. Of course, we aren’t holding the event this year due to the pandemic. 

A few months ago, I would have connected with brokers, carriers, and colleagues at our summer gathering. I’d been planning a get-together in Manhattan, instead of one of our usual Long Island venues. The location would have made it easier for those out of state to join in the fun and would have given my employees and favorite people a unique and memorable experience. (Needless to say, we had to cancel.)

We all understand that insurance is a commodity. We aren’t selling DBL or TDB or PFML, specifically. We are selling a white glove experience. Stellar customer service. State of the art technology. 

Aside from reduced premium rates and better, more flexible coverage, it’s the service that sets private disability insurance apart from the state plans.

And with that service comes perks for your best customers. Holiday parties. Sporting event or concert tickets. It’s all a part of the industry and it helps us build better relationships to grow loyal customers. After all, (you’ve heard it before) it’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.

Connecting… Virtually

Insurance brokers can hold meetings by phone or video. We can host virtual Zoom gatherings, and even virtual Zoom happy hours to create a more casual environment for connection. But it’s still not the same as taking your favorite customers out for drinks, meeting courtside at a Knicks game, or sharing dinner overlooking the Long Island Sound.

As a father, I’ve watched my boys struggle with virtual schooling and being unable to see their classmates since March. Fortunately, they just went back full time. But we are all counting the days, knowing nothing is permanent as Long Island communities around us shift to “Yellow” status and… who knows what happens after that?

The teachers try their hardest to deliver a quality education online. But they are missing that personal connection. A hand on a shoulder. The nuances of facial expressions. Easy, convenient interaction without lag or household distractions. 

Insurance brokers, right now, face the same challenges as teachers in forging a personal connection with our customers. And, in the world of consultative selling, we do act as educators for our customers, imparting the information they need to make the best decisions for their businesses.

So what can we do to create personal connections when we can’t meet face-to-face?

Three Tips for Insurance Brokers to Connect to Clients During the Pandemic

Things are different right now. And not in a good way. But we have to keep going, just as teachers have done, to do our jobs and build success.

If you haven’t already done so, the pandemic is a good time to establish a strong digital marketing campaign. It’s more important than ever to deliver value to our customers and the business owners in our region.

Leverage email – Send touch-base emails more frequently than usual to stay front-of-mind. Mass emails that share helpful tips and information, as well as personalized emails to foster connections, are quick, easy, and effective to stay in touch with your customers.

Email generates $38 of revenue for every $1 spent, according to a Hubspot survey. Nearly 4 billion people use email daily. And 35% of online marketers send their customers 3 to 5 emails per week. So don’t worry about reaching out too often. You don’t want to be forgotten amidst all the other distractions your customers face every day.

Pick up the phone – As early as April 2020, just a month into the pandemic, workers started suffering from Zoom fatigue, which occurs due to the exhaustion of constant visual engagement forced by video calls. Instead of taking the extra time and energy to schedule a call and email the other party a conference link, pick up the phone for an old-fashioned voice conversation. 

This impromptu, casual conference can help create a better rapport, offering more time and energy for personal conversation. You might find a phone call is more efficient and, ironically, more personal and heartfelt, than a Zoom call initiated for the sole purpose of conducting specific business. 

Of course, arm yourself with the latest industry news to help customers understand how claims have changed in the time of Covid. As much as the personal connection, business owners will appreciate this type of valuable information and will rely on you as a trusted resource – which can result in future sales and upsells.

Plan for the future – We won’t always be on lockdown. The pandemic will end someday, especially with news of a vaccine on the horizon. 

Whether you’re on Zoom calls, the phone, or via email or social media, engage your customers with positive thinking and something to look forward to. Start talking about future plans for traveling when the pandemic ends. Even if you’re joking about putting meetings on the calendar for late 2021, you’re helping your customers see a light at the end of the tunnel.

This summer, as stores and restaurants started re-opening under strict guidelines, I kept saying, “Stop talking about a second wave.” I’m still saying it. Be realistic, but think positively, too. It’s all we’ve got right now as a community.

Are these virtual connections enough to keep customers and grow your book of business? Time will tell. What’s working for you? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. 


Group STD v. MA FMLA: What’s the Difference Between MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act Benefits and Short-Term Disability?

Prior to the introduction of the MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act, Massachusetts workers relied on group short-term disability plans to cover partial income replacement for a non-work-related illness or injury.

With MA PFMLA benefits set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, (and additional benefits under the act to begin July 1, 2021), employers may wonder how this affects the need for group STD benefits within an organization.

Should employers and employees still invest in voluntary group short-term disability benefits?

What’s the difference between Group STD vs. PFMLA in Massachusetts?

Short Term Disability or Group STD vs. MA PFML (MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act)

MA PFML is a statutory benefit that all employers in Massachusetts with more than 25 employees must provide. It is similar to Paid Family Leave in New York, which is written as a rider to DBL coverage. The Massachusetts law adds a medical component to combine medical disability coverage with family leave benefits.

Employers can write their benefits plan through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or opt for a private plan that:

  • Meets or exceeds the benefits level and duration
  • Has the same or more lenient requirements
  • Offers the same or lower premiums than the state plan.

Costs will typically be shared between the employer and employee, although the employer may opt to fund more than their minimum percentage.

On the other hand, short term disability or Group STD is a voluntary benefit that can be funded by the employer or employees or shared between the two.

Do Massachusetts Workers Need Group STD Insurance Coverage?

Group short term disability coverage typically lasts until group long-term disability benefits (most commonly called “disability income,” or DI) begin. Your customers should know that MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act benefits offset disability insurance coverage; premiums may be lower for a group STD plan in Massachusetts since the MA PFML plan covers partial income replacement.

In New York, employers have the option to enrich DBL coverage to pay out more than the state maximum benefit. In Massachusetts, a group STD plan can fill this role. The MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act has a maximum weekly benefit cap of $850, which means that high-earners making more than $80,000 will receive a lower percentage of their income than others who are not maxing out the benefit.

As the owner of a Massachusetts business or a c-level executive or human resources director, investing in STD coverage for your employees can also benefit you should you become ill, injured, or unable to work.

Group STD Bridges the Gap Between Long Term Disability and MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act Benefits

In 2021, the MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act pays workers for up to 20 weeks of personal medical leave. However, if the worker already filed a claim for family leave or personal leave within the past calendar year, they may not be able to collect for the full 20 weeks this time around.

On the other hand, employees can collect STD income replacement for up to 26 weeks, regardless of other, unrelated leave.

Long-term disability insurance typically goes into effect 26 weeks after an employee becomes disabled. Short-term disability can provide income replacement for those six weeks (or more), when PFML runs out and before LTD kicks in.

Having financial peace-of-mind with income replacement can reduce stress on the employee and improve retention rates within a company. Combining PFML with Group STD and the best long-term disability insurance , plus ancillary benefits like dental, vision, and Group Life AD&D can help set a Massachusetts business apart. Being able to describe and explain these benefits to business owners can help Massachusetts brokers thrive in any economy.

FMLA vs. PFML in Massachusetts: Understand the Difference

It’s important to reiterate, as well, that PFML and other state paid family and medical leave programs are not the same as the MA Paid Family Medical Leave Act. FMLA only provides job protection, not income replacement. Additionally, some of the requirements and definition of a family member in Massachusetts may differ from the federal legislation. However, since FMLA in Massachusetts covers both partial income replacement and job protection, a Massachusetts employee should be able to take the necessary time off and know they will have a similar job description, position, and salary when they return to work.

View our glossary of short-term disability coverage here for more information on various benefits and protected leave in different states.

Reach out to your friendly DBL Center representatives to learn more about bringing these important employee benefits to Massachusetts business owners.

 


Brokers’ Coronavirus Questions about Short Term Disability, Answered

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, business owners in New York and New Jersey may be wondering if short-term disability insurance will cover their absence from work if they are diagnosed with the virus and must stay home from work.

They might also wonder if they can make a disability claim if they have not been diagnosed with the virus but were placed under a precautionary quarantine.

Finally, with schools closing across the country, they might wonder if they can make a Paid Family Leave (PFL) claim to stay home and care for school-age children if they don’t have other childcare arrangements.

These are dilemmas many Americans are facing today. DBL Center is working hard to provide our brokers with the answers they need to give their clients’ guidance about what does, and what does not, constitute a short-term disability claim when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

The policies of our carriers do vary, but you can always reach out to one of our team if you or your clients have urgent questions. You can reach us 24/7 through the new chat feature on our website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Coronavirus and Short Term Disability Policies: What You Need To Know

In short, a coronavirus diagnosis or a quarantine related to the pandemic does not constitute automatic approval of a short-term disability claim in New York or New Jersey. Some policies from certain carriers, however, may carry quarantine provisions.

Short-term and long-term disability policies typically do not include treatment for a cold or the flu under short-term disability coverage. If an employee is sick and unable to work due to COVID-19, these claims will be determined on a case by case basis, depending on the severity and length of the illness. In some situations, cases requiring hospitalization may qualify for short-term disability in New York and New Jersey.

Claims submitted with a diagnosis of Coronavirus will be evaluated based on all applicable contract provisions. The insured will need to provide proof that they are under the care of a Health Care Provider that can certify the disability and unable to perform their job duties either in the work place or at home via remote access.

PFL and the Coronavirus

Similarly, covered employees cannot make PFL claims to care for children over a year old who are home from school because the school closed as a precautionary measure. Since the virus doesn’t seem to be affecting children severely, it would be unusual for a parent or guardian to require a PFL claim to care for a child who is ill from the virus, unless the child is immune compromised. Again, that would be decided on a individual basis depending on the length and severity of the illness, as with any cold or the flu.

Working from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

DBL Center understands that, at this time, many of our brokers may be working from home to limit the spread of the virus. Here at DBL Center, we will remain open and are doing everything to maintain the clean and sanitary conditions or our workplace and protect our employees.

Fortunately, DBL Center is also set up to work remotely. We have employees in New York and New Jersey offices who frequently connect virtually, and our cloud-based systems transition well to a work-at-home environment.

Our brokers can even Bind DBL Over 50 lives right from any internet-enabled computer, whether at home or in the office. Our exclusive broker Dashboard gives our brokers access to all their policies and preferred carriers from any internet-enabled device, as well.

Throughout the pandemic and after, the DBL Center will continue to be your back-office staff, answer any questions related to disability coverage and the coronavirus pandemic, and help you bind DBL policies from home.

 


Massachusetts Family and Medical Leave Act Opens Doors for Brokers to Privatize Coverage

Massachusetts becomes the fourth state in the Northeast to mandate benefits under a paid family and medical leave act

DBL Center is ready to offer Massachusetts insurance brokers incredible savings on PFML plans under the new Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.

The MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Act applies to individuals who need time off:

• Due to a serious health condition
• To care for a newborn, newly adopted, or new foster child within the first year of the event
• To care for family while a spouse is deployed in the Armed Forces
• To care for a family member of any age with a serious health condition

Help Your Customers Privatize Massachusetts Family and Medical Leave Act Coverage

As in New York and New Jersey, states which have offered short-term disability and paid family leave for several years, business owners in Massachusetts have the option to privatize their FMLA policies for substantial cost reductions.

By law, private FMLA plans must offer benefits of the same amount and duration – or better – than plans underwritten and paid for by the state. That’s why it’s important for business owners to find a source they can trust to write their family and medical leave act coverage in Massachusetts. And that’s where DBL Center insurance brokers come in, offering stellar customer service and lower premiums thanks to the relationships their wholesale general agency has developed over five decades.
Bundle PFML to Save Even More

PFML is a stand-alone benefit, but not every carrier can write PFML as a stand-alone policy. DBL Center has the industry connections and the volume to help Massachusetts insurance brokers get the best deals for their customers.

DBL Center delivers white-glove service, low premiums, and superior benefits packages. Your clients can save even more by bundling FMLA coverage with group ancillary benefits like dental, vision, and group life / AD&D.


DBL Center Enhances Focus on Customer Service and Technology

As testament to the company’s dedication to customer service and education, DBL Center recently launched a Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act Resource Center on its website.

DBL Center also recently introduced 24/7 live chat on its website. Simply type in the chat box and a knowledgeable representative will answer your questions about the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Act, short- or long-term disability insurance, and group ancillary benefits.

“Massachusetts in the fourth state in our region to introduce paid family leave. As experts in short-term disability and paid family leave in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, DBL Center is poised to become the number one source for brokers to privatize PFML in Massachusetts for their customers,” says DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen. “We’re looking forward to the profit potential the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act presents to our brokers.”


DBL Center’s Michael Cohen: New Broker Dashboard App Helps Agencies Keep Business

View the full Broker Dashboard video here.

DBL Center’s proprietary Broker Dashboard app enables DBL Center’s New York-based brokers to track renewals, cancellations, revenue, and commissions on NYS DBL policies with a click.

With 250 brokers now using the Broker Dashboard, and interest from insurance carriers to partner and expand the capabilities of the cloud-based software, DBL Center President and CEO Michael Cohen took a few minutes in his Melville, NY office to explore the history, present, and future of Broker Dashboard. He also hinted at even more advanced technology for brokers and insurance carriers on the horizon.

Where did the Broker Dashboard concept come from?

The broker dashboard evolved mainly from my father, David, Cohen, who was the founder of DBL Center. He always shared two mantras with me: “Nickels, dimes and quarters make dollars,” and “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

After he passed away nearly two years ago, I decided to look at his tracking mechanisms with his old-school number two pencil and general ledger, take that ideology, and convert it into our own proprietary digital management system. That ultimately evolved into our broker dashboard, which we’re making available to all our sub agents across New York State.

How has the Broker Dashboard helped DBL Center?

It’s helped us in two ways. The first way has been the growth aspect of it. If I go into a broker’s office who is using the Broker Dashboard, their immediate question to me is, “Why don’t I see exhibit A or this specific policy?”

The answer is: “Well, that’s because it’s not an account we service. But if you’d like us to service that account, you can roll it over. We’ll become the servicing general agent. And you’ll then see it under your broker dashboard.”

The second way has been in helping our brokers to keep accounts and monitor their retention, which results in preserving profits for everyone, including the carriers where we are acting as not only a servicing general agent but a bill collector.  Every two weeks we send out a reminder email to track their retention, so they can realize what they’re keeping. This goes back to one of my father’s mantras: “It’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.”

In what other ways has the Broker Dashboard helped your brokers?

Tracking all their commissions. We are in a nickels and dimes business, and Paid Family Leave has emphasized that point. The Broker Dashboard helps brokers understand the status of all their policies and determines whether a policy is active or cancelled. I’m staying one step ahead of the insurance carriers by letting our brokers know their clients’ status so they can stay on top of non-pays.

Sometimes, if you lose a DBL policy, you might ultimately lose a workers’ comp policy or a major medical policy.  I’m all about helping our brokers retain their book of business through us. We have thousands of brokers and we currently insure 1.7 million lives.

How many sub-producers are currently using the Broker Dashboard?

Two hundred and fifty brokers are currently using the app. It can be three users per agency, and if they want more than that we unlock it and for a nominal fee, they can have up to 50 users. But the average right now has been between three and five users per agency.

What response have you gotten from the insurance carriers about the Broker Dashboard?

Two carriers, specifically, showed interest in wanting to partner with us through doing some technological advancements to the Broker Dashboard. Those talks evolved into a software company my business partner and I started called Net Revenue Tracker (NRT).
If anybody wants to learn more about NRT, we will do a future video and blog post about how NRT works to track retention and revenue through cloud-based software.